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Prayer for the week

by
25 April 2014

When discipleship feels like drudgery, Rob Wickham finds help in these words

 

ISTOCK

Almighty God, whose Mary-like beauty compels our attention, give us hearts that jump within us with the good news of your salvation. We confess that amid the tedium of the everyday our worship of you sometimes feels like a job - just "one more thing". Thank you for the unsettling of our lives, wherein we discover the splendour of the Kingdom made possible by your Son, Jesus Christ. We pray that you will ever be here, unsettling our attempts to domesticate the wildness of your Spirit.
Amen.

Stanley Hauerwas (b. 1940)  from Prayers Plainly Spoken  (Triangle/SPCK, 1999)

LIKE many clergy, if I am honest, I have times when I would rather be in bed than at the altar. I would rather be watching EastEnders than sitting at my desk in earnest work, and rather be relaxing in a health spa than being stopped again in the street by someone asking for money while I am buying provisions forthe shelter for homeless people. There are even times when I despair, as I sit in our chapel, to begin reciting psalms - alone, in the cold.

These are those moments when I pray this prayer of thanks to the God who unsettles our lives. I am reminded of the hearts that were warmed by the scriptures onthe road to Emmaus, and that the very presence of Jesus enables St John the Baptist to leap, even in the womb. In this prayer, I am also reminded of the need to desireto seek God eagerly, with all ofour heart, as St Anselm remindsus.

There are also those days when I am up to my eyes in visits, meetings, and pressure to get reports written, leaving no time, even for lunch. I have those moments when my head races, my heart pounds, my palms are all sweaty, and I am already five minutes late for the school assembly. At these moments, Imight crave some space for reflection, and to feel in the presence of God.

Either way, I miss the point. In this prayer, Professor Hauerwas is reminding us that the Spirit of God is good at unsettling our lives, and this is not because of his wanting to catch us off guard, or make us feel afraid or anxious, but only that we might catch a glimpse of his Kingdom in Jesus; for his motivation is one of love.

Many of us like things to be settled and calm, but there are times when we have to experience chaos before order, or the storm before the calm. This is so that we might actually glimpse the wildness of the Spirit, who is able to move mountains, heal diseases, and bring peace, and who actively seeks you out, in order that you may be taught how to pray.

When we think of something running wild, we think of destruction and chaos; and yet it is sometimes the wild idea that is able to transform those around us. We live with the legacy of the wildness of the Spirit every day; for it is the same Spirit who encouraged those before us to develop wonderful life-transforming institutions, such as our health and education systems, free when they are needed.

It is the wildness of the Spirit that can bring peace and joy to the most unlikely of places and peoples. Indeed, we try to domesticate the wildness of the Spirit at our peril.

So, when I am bored, I look to this prayer. Please, God, may I be unsettled, and build your Kingdom in this place in the wildness of the Spirit; and may I also have the grace to face the consequences of praying this prayer.

The Revd Rob Wickham is the Rector of St John-at-Hackney, in east London.

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